Paul Bowser recalls his memories of Admiral kits…
I vividly remember the candy coated England kit from 1974 when Admiral first hit the streets.
I’m convinced I was the first to own one in rural Thirsk around that time, having nagged and nagged on about it to my mum and dad from the time it made it’s first appearance against Czechoslovakia. It was bought for me for what I guess was my 11th birthday or that Christmas. I think the full kit cost around £12 – £15 and when I reflect on that I realise, as you do, how much my parents must have scrimped and saved to buy me it.
It had tie-string shorts!
That started a love affair with Admiral kits, and I eagerly lapped up news and glimpses of new outfits, even the bloody awful chocolate one sported by Coventry.
My joy was bountiful when Admiral launched an annual called, cunningly enough, “The Admiral book of Football”. It went on the Christmas list with the Shoot annual, the regular Xmas stocking filler from my Auntie Irene. I wish I’d kept them, and really must track them down, (along with a copy of the biblical Purnells Encyclopedia of Football which taught me everything I needed to know about England’s wonderful football heritage. Imagine my surprise that second division Chelsea’s record attendance – 82,905- astoundingly dwarfed the mighty Liverpool’s 61,000 versus Wolves).
Anyway, the Admiral annual was probably slightly doomed to failure as it only featured players and clubs wearing Admiral kit, but that made it more the better for me. It even had a remarkable mis-spelling on the first page of one edition when it proudly announced to readers in bold type “Welcome Aboarb ! ” I suspect there was a proof-readers job going spare on future editions…..
Each annual also had a competition, the first one being ridiculous in the extreme as it featured something like 10 questions across 10 articles – genuinely, there must have been around 100 questions. Even four multiple choice answers left too many tricky options, so I spent that Christmas researching in my bedroom. The Park Drive book of Football, NOTW annuals, and every possible source of a youngsters magazine and programme collection was poured over. No internet in those days alas, to discover how many games Trevor Brooking played in the 1971/72 season for West Ham Reserves, or something equally as obscure.
So, I posted my letter, confident of about 96 of my answers and nervous about the other 4 guesses after ridiculous levels of research. I dreamt of winning that extremely expensive England tracksuit to go with my England kit. Surely, no-one else had put as much effort into winning?
And crikey, I did win!
Not only did I have the England candy-coated kit, but I also had the tracksuit which was 100% real polyester and looked like an outfit out of Space 1999 or UFO. A white zip-up top, with Red and Blue armbands, and Blue tracky bottoms with a red/white stripe down them. Wow !
I think there were probably 2 or 3 annuals, and future competitions became less of a marathon and more of a sprint. I went onto win a couple of England kits, both short sleeved, and one didn’t even have the iron on 3 Lions badge on it as Admiral’s influence began to wane. One turned out to be too small too, and had to be sent back, but I digress.
Whilst up in the loft recently, determined to de-clutter as I approach my 50th year, I came across the letters from Admiral confirming my successes. I didn’t know I’d kept them. Looking at the prices of the original kits now on ebay, I wish I’d kept them and the packaging!
Keep up the nostalgia – it’s something to look forward to!
If you haven’t got the first ‘Got, Not Got’ yet then please sort yourselves out and buy it from branches of WH Smith and Waterstones or online here…